The last word: A dinosaur from space

Two days after last month’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, Ed Lu, Google’s programme manager for advanced projects, was fielding a rapid succession of phone calls over lunch. Mr Lu was liaising between Google and the US government as the Silicon Valley technology group tried to get updated satellite photos to first responders on the ground.

Not many Googlers could fill this critical role during a time of crisis. But Mr Lu’s unusual CV made him ideally suited for the job. Before joining the company in 2007, Mr Lu was an astronaut at Nasa, where he commanded the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle. “I know a lot of people in the State Department and the Department of Defence,” he says. “I’m trying to cut through the red tape.”

Google employs more than 20,000 people, but Mr Lu is the only one to have travelled in space.

Still, hiring Mr Lu was not an obvious move for Google. The famously laid-back search company makes its money through advertising. And while Nasa, like Google, is a large organisation with a grand mandate and technically complex systems, Mr Lu had no experience of working for internet companies.

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